This blog is part of a series to highlight the restaurant companies nominated for the Best Practices Awards, presented by Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K). Winners will be announced at the 2017 Global Best Practices Conference on Tuesday, January 31st.

Red LobsterEver wondered how certain restaurants rise above the rest? With such a competitive market in the restaurant industry, how do operators drive success for their companies? The answer is by focusing on best-in-class people practices and putting employees first.

Each January, Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) honors several top-performing restaurant companies with the Best Practices Awards at the annual Global Best Practices Conference in Dallas, Texas. The Best Practices Awards are given to companies who demonstrate excellence in workforce diversity and engagement, community involvement and sustainable practices. Nominees must be members of Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) and place in the top 10 percent of their dining segment in these categories (see the full list of 2017 nominees here). The winners will be announced at the event in January.

This year, the Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) team is pleased to recognize Red Lobster, a casual dining chain, as a nominee for this award. Here are just a few examples of what sets this company apart.

Community Involvement

“Red Lobster has a long, proud history of demonstrating our core values of Respect, Integrity, Genuine Caring, Hospitality and Teamwork as well as Excellence and Fun, both in our restaurants and in the communities in which we operate,” commented Tom Gathers, Chief People Officer of Red Lobster.

“Red Lobster hosts an annual Employee Giving Campaign to support Heart of Florida United Way, a non-profit organization providing basic needs services to community members. It also increased employee participation from 62% in 2015 to 79% in 2016.” Employees further support the Heart of Florida United Way by annually donating new school supplies and toys to homeless and at-risk children in Central Florida.

Additionally, “All Red Lobster restaurants across North America package and freeze surplus, wholesome food that wasn’t served and share it with local food banks and other agencies in the communities where we operate. Since the program started, Red Lobster has donated more than 20 million pounds of food to community food banks and other organizations across the country.”

Does Red Lobster’s community involvement affect its employees’ overall happiness and dedication to the organization?

“Absolutely. Throughout time, a common theme in engagement surveys and employee focus groups is the tremendous pride our team members take in RL Shares (supporting hunger in their local communities). Additionally, employees and managers embrace local causes and volunteer in support of local communities. Red Lobster enjoys historically low turnover and has a large number of highly tenured team members with 30 or more years of service. We believe ‘genuine caring’ is rewarding on many levels,” explained Gathers.


Red Lobster also continuously works to reduce its ecological footprint. Some of the company’s recent steps in sustainability initiatives include:

  • Implementing LED lighting and Energy Management systems in a large number of restaurants to promote energy efficiency
  • Ensuring that all wild-caught seafood is caught in a safe, sustainable way and requiring farm-raised seafood suppliers to follow Best Aquaculture Practices defined by the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Aquaculture Certification Council
  • Helping to launch the Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Foundation, a nonprofit that works with fishermen, buyers and other stakeholders to preserve the lobster population and keep the industry stable and sustainable

Employee Dedication

In addition to serving its community and the environment, Red Lobster also thrives by putting its employees first and ensuring each team member from the corporate to the restaurant level is fully supported. This is accomplished through several measures, such as the employee emergency assistance fund, RL Cares. This program is funded entirely by voluntary employee payroll deductions.

These examples demonstrate Red Lobster’s commitment to the community, the environment and, most importantly, to its people. This is why Red Lobster continues to be an industry leader, and why the Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) team is looking forward to honoring this organization as a nominee this January.

More Best Practices to Come!

Stay tuned as we continue to highlight our Best Practices award nominees in the weeks leading up to Global Best Practices Conference.

More importantly, it’s time to save your seat! Registration is open to all restaurant operators here. If your company is a member of Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report), Financial Intelligence (formerly Black Box Intelligence) or Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence))™, use access code BPCMember17 during registration for your special membership discount. For more information, please email Grace Kaucic at